Reno Burleson '43
2000 Award of Honor
Reno Burleson had a hand in moving and shaking East Tennessee State University . . . literally. This 1943 graduate started Burleson Construction Company, Inc., with his father and brother. That company helped renovate the old Alumni Memorial Gym into what is now known as Mathes Hall. Burleson said back in 1953 the school, which was known as East Tennessee State College, could get funds for renovation projects, but no money was available to build new buildings. So ETSC officials hired the Burleson Construction Company to do the project which lasted about nine months. Burleson laughed when commenting on insuring the project, "No company in the United States would insure us for this job, so we had to get Lloyd's of London to insure us." The renovations were extensive. They had to move the entire frame, masonry and roof structure of Mathes Hall. The bottom floor became the offices for the ROTC unit, and the top floor was made acoustically sound for band rehearsals and other music practice rooms.
The two key reasons Burleson went to ETSU were because it is the closest university and very economical for its time. But the most important reason Burleson came to school was to play basketball. During the summers, Burleson worked to get money for school, but while on campus he lettered in basketball all four years and was captain for two of those years. He was a member of the "T" Club for letterwinners and was elected president. Burleson was also included in Who's Who of American Colleges and Universities. Burleson said the basketball team was pretty good; however, the war took most of the supply of players.
After graduating, Burleson boarded a train and headed for New York to attend Naval Officers Training School at Columbia University. Burleson was stationed in many of the "hot spots" of the war, but came home unharmed. He served four years in the Navy, reaching the rank of Lieutenant.
Except for those four years in the Navy, Burleson has lived his entire life in Johnson City and has served his hometown well. He has held numerous volunteer positions including board member and chairman of the Johnson City/Washington County Economic Development Board, Chairman of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, Vice Chair of the Johnson City Medical Center board of directors, Chairman of the Nations Bank local board of directors, as well as a board seat on the Nations Bank state board in Nashville. He has held all the offices in the Associated General Contractors of America on both state and local levels. He is a member of the ETSU Pirate Club and former board member of First Christian Church.
He and his wife Marjorie enjoy golfing and spending time with their six grandchildren. Burleson has three sons, Robert G. Burleson of Tallahassee, Fla., Thomas J. Burleson of Jonesborough, Tenn., and Dr. William R. Burleson of Richmond, Va.